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Christian Union
November 22, 2017

Christian Union Course Gives Tejeda '18 Comfort, Perspective


It was an incredibly hard summer for Julissa Tejeda, a civil engineering major at Columbia University. 

Her father passed away in June, and she spent most of her time helping to plan his funeral and taking care of the family’s financial affairs.

Julissa smallThe Bronx, New York native had signed up for Christian Union’s annual Lake George Course on Christian Thought, but didn’t feel emotionally up to it. As she begins her senior year at Columbia, however, Tejeda is glad that she decided to attend the 12-day course with seven other students at Christian Union’s retreat center in Lake George, New York.

The course, held in mid-August, was led by Jesse Peterson, a Christian Union ministry fellow at Columbia. Featured topics included: Faith and Reason; Biblical Exegesis;  Meta-Ethics; The Meaning of Life; Death and Afterlife in the Bible; Creation; and Vice-Regency

“The Lake George Course on Christian Thought provides the most theologically and philosophically minded students with a means to engage with one another as peers,” said Peterson. “They become excited once it starts and they meet students from other campuses who enjoy thinking through faith at a deeper level.

Spending nearly two weeks with other students from top universities in a peaceful, scenic setting and engaging with an intellectually-rich curriculum was a welcomed respite for Tejeda. 

“I’m so grateful that I had the chance to leave New York City and be alone with God through Christian community,” she said. “I was able to re-focus on my senior year.”

The highlight of her time in Lake George was engaging in dialogue that was fostered by studying some of life’s most provocative topics. Tejeda recalled how a negative experience in a local church a few years earlier had left her fearful of asking questions to leadership as she wrestled with doctrinal questions. 

“At Lake George, I felt comfortable admitting my doubts,” she said. “And I felt encouraged to ask questions. I wasn’t afraid, because all of the conversations were marked with love and genuine curiosity.”

Tejeda, who is active in the Christian community at Columbia, said she is better equipped theologically and more confident as she begins her senior year.

“I’m not afraid of uncertainty or doubts anymore. Because I yearn to truly know Jesus, it is my duty to ask questions. Since everything I do should be done to the glory of God, it is important for me to ask questions in respect to my studies and future career. I should aspire to do all things to the best of my ability.”

Attending the Lake George Course on Christian Thought also helped Tejeda experience reflection and healing following the passing of her dad, Felix Tejeda, who died of lung cancer on June 18. She was thankful for conversations about grief and moving forward with Robert Muni, a Stanford University sophomore who lost his father in high school. 

“The time I spent at Lake George was the first time I was really alone with my feelings. It allowed me to contemplate the reality of my dad’s absence, as well as the implications of living without him,” she said. “I found comfort in community, the warm atmosphere of the house, and nature.”

Studying with like-minded students and bonding through recreational activities also proved to be a blessing.

“As someone who loves nature, it was great to play basketball and volleyball, as well as go kayaking and hiking,” she said. “Overall, it felt like we were a family of nine, a multicultural Brady Brunch.”